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By: Manny Ita

The shares of United Bank for Africa, UBA, may be one of the early beneficiaries of the bottom-out amidst a flicker of hope on recovery from the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, three-week long bear run. The stock had positive investor sentiment pulling it back from slide and lifting it by 2.15 per cent gain last week, as against 0.08 per cent decline recorded by the NSE benchmark week-on-week.

Investment analysts and stockbrokers had attributed the initial price down on the stock to the bandwagon effect of t characterised March 2018 tradings. But it appears that many stocks with strong financial fundamentals especially in the just released 2017 full year, FY‘17, financial statements, as well as pointers to an impressive first quarter 2018, Q1’18, such as UBA, would be having a faster recovery.

The group chief financial officer, GCFO, of the bank, Mr. Ugo Nwaghodoh, in a chat with Financial Vanguard, had expressed optimism that the recent adverse investor sentiments in most stocks would soon give way to the reality of strong positive sentiments especially for UBA and other stocks with sound fundamentals. Regulatory requirements He had told a gathering of financial media professionals that some of the key drivers of the bank’s FY’17 impressive performance announced two weeks ago include: Growth in interest income; Efficient cost of funding; and Continued growth in trading activities, supported by the bank’s successful Eurobond float which provided it competitive FX liquidity. He also noted that the bank had maintained high liquidity even in the tight circumstance and market situations at 50percent as against regulatory requirements of 30percent, adding that despite the spike from 3.9percent to 4.6perthe spike from 3.9percent to 4.6percent in its non-performing loans ration, the bank’s capital adequacy ratio is still stronger than most bank’s at 20 percent as against the regulatory minimum of 15 percent.

Perhaps one of the most attractive investment value unique to UBA is the contribution of the subsidiaries outside Nigeria. The bank’s FY ’17 results show significant growth in the contribution and market share from its pan-African subsidiaries, among other positive trends in the financial performance. The audited results showed that gross earnings grew substantially to N462 billion, up by 20 percent from N314 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2017. Also the Group delivered a strong 16 per cent year-on-year growth in profit before tax of N105 billion, compared to N90.6 billion in the 2016 financial year. The Bank’s subsidiaries outside Nigeria contributed a third of the Group’s top-line and 45 per cent of the profit for the year, a remarkable improvement from 31 percent contribution made by the ex-Nigeria offices in 2016.

This, according to Nwaghodoh affirms the success of the Bank’s expansion strategy, with target of 50 percent contributions by 2020. He also said this development would moderate impacts on the bank from adversities in any single market, citing the situation in Nigeria where earnings in fixed income securities are expected to trend down due to policy changes by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, a development which Nwaghodoh said is not happening in all other economies UBA operates in. Financial highlights The Bank’s Operating Income grew to N326.6 billion, a 20.6 percent increase compared to N270.9 billion recorded in 2016. This, according to analysts, affirms the capacity of the Group to deliver strong performance through varying economic cycles and challenging business environment. The audited results also showed that the Bank’s Total Assets peaked at N4.07 trillion, translating into 16.1 percent year-on-year growth from the figure of N3.50 trillion recorded as at 2016 financial year. In the 2017 financial year, the Bank’s Net loans achieved a prudent 9.7 percent growth at N1.65 trillion, while the customer deposits grew to N2.73 trillion, representing 10 percent year-on-year growth on N2.49 trillion recorded in 2016 financial year.

Reflecting a strong internal capital generation, the Bank’s shareholders’ fund also soared 18.2 percent to N529.4 billion in the 2017 financial year. Subject to the approvals of the shareholders, the Board of UBA Plc proposed a final dividend of 65 kobo per every share of 50 kobo each. This final dividend proposal is in addition to the 20 kobo per share interim dividend paid after the audit of the 2017 half year financial statements, thus putting the total dividend for 2017 financial year at 85 kobo per share. Speaking on this financial performance and the bank’s overall financial position, Nwaghodoh stated: “In a period of high interest rates, we achieved a relatively low 3.7 per cent cost of funds. This operational efficiency reflects the benefit of our rich pool of stable savings and current account deposits. The net interest margin stabilized at seven per cent, even as yields on treasury assets dropped in the last quarter of 2017. Our core transaction banking offerings gained strong momentum, with income from these business lines growing by double digits. “We remain committed to our responsible approach to balance sheet management, with focus on growing risk asset and broader balance sheet in a profitable and prudent manner. Amidst a subdued Nigerian credit market, we grew our loan portfolio by 10 per cent, leveraging our robust liquidity and capitalization to support good businesses through this challenging economic cycle. We closed the year with a Basel II capital adequacy ratio of 19 per cent and a liquidity ratio of 50 per cent, well ahead of 15 per cent and 30 per cent regulatory requirement respectively. Our disciplined approach to lending and broader risk management continues to uphold our asset quality.” Operational Efficiency Notwithstanding tight system liquidity, UBA’s net interest margin remained stable at 7.0 percent, as it sustained cost of funds at 3.7percent.

Reflecting the impact of higher cost of risk, the bank closed the year with 16 percent return on average equity (RoAE) and 2.1 percent return on average assets (RoAA). Having conservatively provided for the major hit to its risk asset portfolio, the bank’s GCFO expects both RoAE and RoAA to recover strongly in 2018. He stated: “We expect our improved customer service and innovative offerings to accelerate market share gain just as technology enhancement and investment in people should drive productivity and efficiency gains.” Diversified Asset In spite of slow recovery in economic activities in Nigeria, UBA’s single largest market, the Group’s total assets grew 16 percent year-on-year, buoyed partly by the successful issuance of USD500 million debut Eurobond and a change in exchange rate for translating the FX balances. Leveraging on enhanced customer service, the Group grew retail deposits by 21percent, at the backdrop of a near-zero savings by households. Individual customers’ deposit now represents 43percent of UBA’s deposit funding. These low cost, stable deposits, reinforce the bank’s optimism on reducing funding cost, improving margins and profitability going forward. The Group maintained its appetite for a well-diversified balance sheet, with more than half of the assets in liquid, low risk instruments.

Asset Quality UBA’s vision and financial goals are based on creating a sustainable business which delivers long term value creation. This is based on maintaining moderate risk appetite to achieve a good balance between profitability and sustainability. Given its conservative provision on a major exposure, the bank do not expect any further charge. Thus, both NPL ratio and cost of risk should begin to moderate from 2018. Notwithstanding inflationary pressures and lagged impact of Naira devaluation, the bank’s cost-to-income ratio, CIR, remains below the sub-60 per cent guidance and the bank says it is on track to deliver our medium term CIR target. Boost to Internationalisation Previous week UBA announced that its London subsidiary has obtained regulatory permission to carry out Wholesale Banking activities in the UK. Following this authorization, UBA is now the only Sub-Saharan African bank to conduct banking activities in New York and London, as well as in 20 other countries across Africa. Commenting on the landmark achievement, the Group Managing Director/CEO, UBA PLC, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka said: “This authorization strengthens our capabilities in meeting the growing cross-border financing needs of our customers. It enhances our customer coverage and product offerings whilst positioning our Group as an optimal conduit for trade and foreign investments into and across Africa as well as export flows to the United Kingdom. Importantly, the licence will enable us to fulfill our aspiration of deepening financial intermediation in Sub-Saharan Africa and providing the much-needed financial support to the broader real sector of the African economy,” he added. The CEO of United Bank for Africa (UK) Ltd (“UBA UK”), Mr. Andrew Martin noted further, “this enhanced positioning of our business is timely, as it comes at a time when the UK is seeking to expand trade and broaden economic ties with Nigeria and Africa in general.”

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FirstBank’s Adesola Adeduntan Bags ‘Best Chief Executive Officer’ Award

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The Chief Executive Officer, First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank), Dr. Adesola Adeduntan has been adjudged the ‘Best Chief Executive Officer’ of the year at the Digital Innovation and Excellence awards, held recently in Accra, Ghana.

 

The awards, which climaxed the Digital Banking Summit was aimed at rewarding individuals and groups whose contribution and efforts have spurred growth in the banking industry across Africa.

 

Dr. Adeduntan who has been at the helm of affairs of FirstBank, FBNBank Ghana’s parent Bank since 2016 had ensured the rollout of the Group’s digital banking strategy, which aims to leverage new and evolving technologies to facilitate access to everyday financial services for consumers and businesses alike.

 

Receiving the award on behalf of Dr. Adeduntan in Accra on Friday, Victor Yaw Asante, the Managing Director of FBNBank Ghana said the award amply speaks to Dr. Adeduntan’s commitment to driving the financial inclusion agenda of FirstBank as well as its subsidiaries across Africa.

 

“On behalf of Dr. Adeduntan and his management team at First Bank of Nigeria Limited, I will like to thank you for recognising the Bank’s unrelenting quest to meet the needs and preferences of our customers with our deployment of a full bouquet of digital banking services.

 

Victor Yaw Asante stated that “though humbling, this award reminds us to keep listening and to demonstrate an understanding of our customers’ busy, modern lives and connect with them through the provision of solutions that not only meet their needs but also delivers relevant experiences that meet their expectations.

 

“We would deepen our collaboration with our partners and strive to replicate our success in Nigeria across all our subsidiaries,” he said.

 

This award adds to the rich ‘awards shelf’ of FirstBank since the turn of the year, as the Bank has been recognised beyond the shores of Nigeria for its leading role at promoting technological inclusion, cashless transactions and financial inclusion in the fast revolving and technological driven financial industry in Nigeria.

 

Amongst the many awards bagged by the premier and leading financial institution in Nigeria include; Cashless Driver: Highest Volume in Bill Payments and Cashless Driver: Highest Transaction Volume in Real-Time Payments at the CBN Electronic Payments Incentive Scheme (EPIS) Efficiency Awards. Other awards are; Most improved Mobile Banking Application, Highest Transacting Bank (across Interswitch’s Solutions) and Highest Number of Verve Transacting Cards (Unique Cards) at the Interswitch Connect Sales Dinner & Awards Night as well as Best Banking Brand in Nigeria 2019 by Global Brands Magazine. 

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Adeduntan: FirstBank is reducing poverty, deepening financial inclusion through its 31,000 agent network

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By Okafor Endurance

 

In its quest to deepen financial inclusion, FirstBank is channelling its resources to reach those at the bottom of the pyramid through its agency banking.

The tie-one bank has over 31,000 agents spread across Nigeria with 9,000 assigned to provide financial services to the highly excluded Northern region.

According to Adesola Adeduntan, the MD/CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the bank took it upon itself as part of their strategic plan to be the bank that can be the right partner to the CBN and the government by helping to achieve the right social impact.

“If there is that bank on ground to help the country to address the seeming geographical gap in terms of financial inclusion, it is FirstBank, because we are already doing a lot,” Adeduntan said.

With over 125 years of unbroken existence in Nigeria, the lender has the largest branch network in Nigeria with over 750 branches spread across the country.

Nigeria has an exclusion rate of 36.8 percent as at December 2018; this translates to about 36.6 million Nigerian adults who are not included in the formal financial net.

The Central Bank of Nigeria plans to ensure it drive that number to 20 percent by the year 2020. But with less than five months to the deadline, the regulator has about 16.8 percent exclusion gap.

“So with over 31,000 agents and 750 branches spread across all the LGAs in Nigeria, FirstBank is indeed a frontrunner at not just providing banking to all Nigerians but importantly improving their respective businesses and developing the Nigerian economy,” Adeduntan noted.

According to Emeka Onwuka, CEO, Parkway Project, a Lagos-based Fintech company known for its popular ReadyCash product, when it comes to financial inclusion, the distribution is really “where we have the problem.”

“It is not about wallet rather it is about the touch point where people can actually go and have access,” Onwuka added. In January 2019, the central bank unveiled a revised version of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in which it projected that it will enroll about 500,000 mobile money/bank agents available to serve about 105 million adult Nigerians by the year 2020. The figure translates to about 476 agents per 100,000 adults.

 

Less than five months to the projected deadline, Nigeria’s financial institutions have however enrolled a joint 65,753 mobile agents, data obtained from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) showed.

This is 86.85 percent less than the 500,000 mobile agents which are going to serve about 105 million adult Nigerians. If the industry regulator is to meet the target by 2020, it would have to enroll about 434,247 agents in five months.

According to data by EFInA, a huge population of Nigerian adult still lack access to financial products and services. The number is however highest in the northern part of the country.

Compared to other regions of Africa’s most populous nation, the northern part of the country reported more unbanked people owing to high illiteracy level, insurgency in some parts of the region coupled with high poverty rate, as compiled from BusinessDay survey.

“Currently we have up to 9,000 agents specifically in the northern part of the country and the same thing goes for the statistics of our ATM,” Adeduntan said.

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Wema Bank Opens Bootcamp to Support Fintechs

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Wema Bank, Nigeria’s leading innovative bank, hosts a bootcamp focused on engaging fintech startups to develop solutions that will optimise service delivery in banking and finance.

The Hackaholics Bootcamp is a ten-week intensive program designed to engage outstanding startups who participated at the Wema Bank Hackathon to develop their ideas and make them into market-ready products or services. They will also be trained on global practices for lean startups which includes user research and pivoting, customer journey mapping among other solution design thinking.

The Bootcamp which kicked off on Monday, September 16, 2019, at the Wema Bank Codeville, Ilupeju, Lagos will feature robust ideation and training sessions on product design and development facilitated by experts.

Trainers at the Bootcamp – Chuba Ezekwesili,Head of Research and Strategy and Co-founder, Akanka, Iyin Aboyeji, Co-Founder Flutterwave, Andela and Founder Street Capital, Joseph Agunbiade, Co-founder BudgIT, Founder Univelcity, Getmobile Technologies Limited, and SmartED and other experts – will take participating teams through extensive market research and predictive trend analysis to ensure they develop solutions that are relevant in an ever-changing market.

Participating teams will be equipped with different business model toolkits to develop a scalable market-ready solution, a go-to-market strategy, branding and communications. They will also be equipped with skills on how to pitch to and win over investors.

In his remarks, Wema Bank’s Head of Innovation, Samuel Omotayo stated that: “the path to growth in today’s world is through collaboration and competition within and outside your organization.”

“Our goal is to equip and support startups to bring their ideas to life and ultimately, to have market-ready viable products by the end of the Bootcamp.

“We aim to create solutions that will drive process efficiency, optimize service delivery and improve customer experience. We are also looking to partner with other tech organizations in this regard.”

It should be recalled that in March this year, the bank pulled together startups and young tech professional for its first hackathon, Hackaholics, as part of its drive to leverage technology in solving financial, institutional and social challenges.

Through the bootcamp, Wema Bank will build on the success of Hackaholics and continue its support of fintechs in reinventing financial service delivery in Nigeria.

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